Joanna Kavenna went north in search of the Atlantis of the Arctic, the mythical land of Thule. Seen once by an Ancient Greek explorer and never found again, mysterious Thule came to represent the vast and empty spaces of the north. Fascinated for many years by Arctic places, Kavenna decided to travel through the lands that have been called Thule, from Shetland to Iceland, Norway, Estonia, and Greenland. On her journey, she found traces of earlier writers and travellers, all compelled by the idea of a land called Thule: Richard Francis Burton, William Morris, Anthony Trollope, as well as the Norwegian Polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen. She met wilderness-lovers; poets writing epics about ice; Inuit musicians and Polar scientists trying to understand the silent snows. But she came to discover that a darkness also inhabits Thule: the Thule Society, obsessed with the purity of the Nordic peoples; the 'war children' - the surviving progeny of Nazi attempts to foster an Aryan race; as well as ice-bound relics of the Cold War. Finally she arrived in Svalbard, a beautiful Arctic archipelago, at the edge of the frozen ocean. Blending travelogue, reportage, memoir, and literary essay, Joanna Kavenna explores the changing life of the far North in the 20th Century. The Ice Museum is a mesmerising story of idealism and ambition, wars and destruction, survival and memories, set against the haunting backdrop of the northern landscape.
Vienna1865: Dr Ignaz Semmelweis has been hounded into a lunatic asylum, ridiculed for his claim that doctors' unwashed hands are the root cause of childbed fever. The deaths of thousands of mothers are on his conscience and his dreams are filled with blood.2153: humans are birthed and raised in breeding centres, nurtured by strangers and deprived of familial love. Miraculously, a woman conceives, and Prisoner 730004 stands trial for concealing it.London in 2009: Michael Stone's novel about Semmelweis has been published, after years of rejection. But while Michael absorbs his disconcerting success, his estranged mother is dying and asks to see him again. As Michael vacillates, Brigid Hayes, exhausted and uncertain whether she can endure the trials ahead, begins the labour of her second child.A beautifully constructed and immensely powerful work about motherhood that is also a story of rebellion, isolation and the damage done by rigid ideologies.
Rosa Lane is a fashionable journalist in her thirties, already the picture of London achievement. Her handsome boyfriend is something in politics and her other friends are confident, prosperous and ambitious. But one afternoon, staring at her computer screen at work, she fails to see the point, walks out of her job - and begins her long fall from modern grace.
Take one narrator in retreat from suburban life, a shambolic draughty farmhouse in a scenic valley, two psychotic goats, one banker, a village-full of empty second homes and scores of poor and elderly people with nowhere to go. Take one widowed survivalist called Cassandra White. Take an escalating state of hostilities between the haves who don't even use what they have, and the have-nots who decide they're sick of having nothing at all. Take one crazy scheme to reclaim the valley for the locals. What do you get? A hilarious, timely satire from Joanna Kavenna, the prize-winning author of Inglorious and The Birth of Love... b
A legend, a land once seen and then lost forever, Thule was a place beyond the edge of the maps, a mystery for thousands of years. And to the Nazis, Thule was an icy Eden, birthplace of Nordic “purity. In this exquisitely written narrative, Joanna Kavenna wanders in search of Thule, to Shetland, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, Greenland, and Svalbard, unearthing the philosophers, poets, and explorers who claimed Thule for themselves, from Richard Francis Burton to Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen. Marked by breathtaking snowscapes, haunting literature, and the cold specter of past tragedies, this is a wondrous blend of travel writing and detective work that is impossible to set down. RVIEW: Thule, real or not, is ripe and beguiling material for a literary and geographic adventurer, and Kavenna is formidable on both fronts. . . . Highly cerebral, erudite, refreshing. (The New York Times Book Review)
'Extraordinary, wise, funny, adventurous' A. L. Kennedy
'So utterly startling and inventive, it's almost an act of resistance' Miriam Toews
'I couldn't put it down. A cult following seems certain' Literary Review
'Refreshing as well as disconcerting to read a novel that sets aside convention so resolutely' Guardian
'Opts to push the boundaries of what the novel is' Telegraph
'A comic metaphysical thriller' Scotland on SundayEliade Jencks knows the only reason people call at midnight is to tell you someone has died. Professor Solete was one of her few friends. Perhaps her only friend. But his friends don't think much of her - a vague, scruffy waitress, impatient with philosophical onanism at parties. Naturally, they're horrified to find out that Solete has left her his Field Guide to Reality.The Guide has taken on legendary proportions among the celebrated minds of Oxford. The work of a lifetime, it purportedly advances Solete's great philosophical Theory of Everything and even defines the very nature of reality. A big, important book. Only, they can't find it.So, baffled, grieving, and slightly annoyed, Eliade sets out on a quest for the missing manuscript, and falls down a rabbit-hole of metaphysical possibility. From a psychotropic tea party to the Priests of the Quantum Realm, she trips her way through Solete's wonderland reality and, without quite meaning to, bursts open the boundaries of her own. In this clever, darkly ironic and moving novel, Granta Best of Young British author Joanna Kavenna displays fearless originality and dread wit in confronting the strangeness of reality and how we contend with the disappearance of those we love. Beautiful original drawings by Oly Ralfe illustrate this haunting tale of bringing light to an empty room.